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First responders honor heroic actions of 9/11

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneFirefighters walk around a track in full gear at Allendale Elementary School in Grants Pass Saturday morning during the 20th Anniversary First Responders Memorial Walk.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneFirefighters walk around a track in full gear at Allendale Elementary School in Grants Pass Saturday morning during the 20th Anniversary First Responders Memorial Walk.
Annual memorial walk honored those “who have given their all — on that day and over the past 20 years”

Dozens of area first responders and law enforcement officers were joined by other community members Saturday morning to commemorate 9/11 in an hour-long walk around the track behind Allen Dale Elementary School in Grants Pass.

The 20th Anniversary First Responder Memorial Walk happened under the bluest sky some people there could remember seeing in a while because of wildfires that have been burning throughout the west this season. A large United States flag was displayed from the top of a ladder positioned at maximum height from a ladder truck.


The Medford Fire Department this year opted not to have a large commemoration with personnel from the various fire agencies in Jackson and Josephine counties. It has been the host of a stair climb at Rogue Valley Manor that in the past included participants from around the region.

“Unfortunately, we had to limit our participation to protect our community and first responders to the many risks and exposure to the COVID-19 virus,” Medford Fire Chief Eric Thompson wrote in a post Saturday morning on the department’s Facebook page.

However, Thompson then stated that “I could not allow this day to go by without a proper observance.”

So there was a more intimate local ceremony early in the morning.

“We didn’t want this to be something we didn’t take a moment to recognize,” said Austin Prince, division chief of Rural Metro Fire-Josephine County.

His department decided to host a 9/11 memorial to allow personnel from across the region a chance to mark the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks in which four commercial aircraft were hijacked. Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City and one was flown into the Pentagon just outside of Washington, D.C. The fourth plane ended up crashing in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Nearly 3,000 people died that day -- including 343 NYC firefighters, according to previous reports.

Before a moment of silence, Prince said that the event was not only to recognize the firefighters but to remember all of those who died and otherwise sacrificed that day as well as in the days since to ensure the nation’s citizens are safe and free, which includes those who serve in the military and veterans.

The walk was to be “in remembrance of the first responders and service members who have given all-- on that day and over the past 20 years, Prince noted.

Structural firefighters were encouraged to wear full gear and their breathing apparatuses but doing so wasn’t required. Doing so is a way to get more of a feel of how it was for the first responders who went into the World Trade Center on Sept.11, 2001, Prince said.

Two newer members of the Rural Metro Fire-Josephine County remembered little about the events of 9/11. At the time they were children of ages 3 and 8, respectively.

Both Corbin Laird and Dane Dellsite say it played a role in their wanting to help others. The actions of first responders on 9/11 mean more to them now that they are working in the same profession, they explained before the start of the walk.

“I remember the repercussions,” said Laird, now 23. “It hits home a little more and I have more respect for them.”

Before leaving for school that morning, Dellsite, then a third grader, watched it on television.

“Our teacher talked about it,” said Dellsite, now 28. “It was hard to understand the impact at 8 years old. But being a firefighter now, it hits home a little differently.”

Rural Metro Fire-Josephine County Battalion Chief Randy DeLonge had been working as a firefighter for a few years and was vacationing with his wife in Ireland at the time.

They were in a pub when they heard the news about what happened back home.

A lot of businesses closed to honor those who died in 9/11. Tourists were walking the streets looking for a place to eat.

Some locals invited them to join them for a meal. Amid the shock and sadness about the attacks “we were a little humbled,” DeLonge said.

Mail Tribune reporter Terri Harber can be reached at tharber@rosebudmedia.com, or by calling 541-776-4468.